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Glass jars filled with roots, stems, seeds, and parts of the natural world, adorn a table in the BMO Atrium at Evergreen Brickworks. They call to each one of us entering the space, and fill us with curiosity and excitement. Joe doesn’t need labels for his plethora of Earth’s Mashkiki (Medicine in Ojibway), he knows them well. They are an intriguing draw, as we step to gather in a circle and begin the afternoon event. Joe Pitawanakwat is a founder of Creator’s Garden, which is a small business that goes into communities, to teach on the healing properties of plants and to restore access to knowledge of Mashkiki.

Before we set out on our afternoon trek in the trails, Joe asks us to reflect on the relationship that we have with Aki (Land in Ojibway). Where does Nibi (Water in Ojibway) come from? Where did we get the food we ate this morning? “We are living in Ontario, but we are floating above, we are not actually interacting with Ontario.” he says. So how do we begin repairing and revitalizing our relationship with the land? “You already have the answers.” he tells us. And with that, we are eager to continue in our education.

Joe’s spirit is infectious. His knowledge is a gift and he shares it in a way that people can engage in it for themselves. As we walk the trails at Evergreen Brickworks, sounds of Orioles chirp in and remind us all to look around and be a part of the world around us. Nature is always in communication with us, and we carry so much knowledge inside of ourselves already. From the observance of a lily root and its relationship with Omakakii (Frog in Ojibway) and Mooz (Moose in Ojibway), we begin to see how we can understand its benefits as well.  The yeast of poplar trees, teaches us about protection. We start to see, that what makes a plant unique, is also a clue into its medicines. Joe enraptures us right on through the sunny afternoon. With an openness and earnest desire to get others more engaged with the world around, he remains hopeful about the healing powers of our plant relatives. “Kids just get it”. As Joe takes many groups of varying ages out onto the land, kids he says are so in tune with the teachings from Aki. Another sign of hope. This afternoon session has been an education in revitalizing our connection with Tkaronto, a place where we can often get swept away in, but for which there is no shortage of ways to repair our connection to that bond.

Miigwech Joe for your teachings and for leading by example!

This blog post is written by Michelle Fraser